Markets & Finance

European Indexes Mixed

Awaiting a strong open in New York, European indexes were a mixed bag Thursday morning

From Standard & Poor's European MarketScope

European indexes closed Thursday trading flat to higher as Wall Street was flat. Crude was at US$65.61/bbl.

UK: The FTSE 100 index gave up all gains to close flat. Mining and banking stocks weighed. The pound; fell below US$2 as the US$ rebounded. In British M&A news, ABN Amro (ABN) said it will grant due diligence to the consortium comprising Royal Bank of Scotland (-1.85%), Fortis and Santander, which has put in a counter-bid of €39/share to the Barclays (BCS) (-1.04%) offer.

Standard Chartered (+0.97%) benefited from vague bid rumors that an investment bank or a Chinese bank was interested. Among updates, Barclays said it had made a good start to the year and its first quarter headline pretax profit rose 15%. Insurer Legal & General (-0.25%) posted a 6% rise in worldwide new business sales. Amvescap's (+4.25%) first quarter profit went up by 36%. Man Group (+1.54%) gained.

Scottish & Newcastle (+0.51%) said it was on track to meet fiscal expectations. Centrica's (+0.59%) said its British Gas unit will cut domestic power prices with immediate effect. In other news, Vodafone (+0.71%) may end up paying more than the US$11.1 billion for a 67% stake in Hutchison Essar, wrote the FT. Compass (+0.07%) gained after French peer Sodexho Alliance posted a forecast-beating 24% rise in first half profit and raised its fiscal guidance.

France: The CAC 40 index (-0.14%) remained in the red at the close. France Telecom (FTE) (+3.2%) came off earlier highs after posting first quarter revenues. Its CFO denied any interest in Telecom Italia (TI) after the FT wrote that a consortium of Italian banks had made fresh approaches to France Telecom and Spain's Telefonica (TEF) over the possible acquisition of Pirelli's stake in Olimpia.

Cap Gemini (-1.57%) slipped again following first quarter sales that beat the consensus. It raised its fiscal 2007 revenue growth target by a percentage point. PPR's (+0.25%) first quarter sales rose 5% to a better-than-expected €4.45 billion, once again driven by luxury goods brands. Thomson (-1.66%) posted first quarter sales of €1.252 billion, short of a €1.269 billion consensus. Sodexho (4.77%) tabled first half net profit of €198 million; +24%, and raised its fiscal 2006-07 operating profit guidance to 12% from 10%.

Christian Dior (-0.43%) slipped after posting first quarter revenue of €184 million, up 16% at cfx. Zodiac (+0.62%) reported first half net profit of €80.3 million vs. the consensus of €74.5 million. In other news, Lagardere (-0.64%), off earlier lows, will cancel 8.56 million shares held by itself, representing 6% of its share capital. PSA's (-0.19%) Citroen seeks to cut 4,800 jobs, according to Reuters. The AMF has begun probes into unusual share price movements, targeting Eiffage (-2.31%), France Telecom and some CAC-40 companies, according to media reports.

Germany: The Xetra-Dax index (+0.6%) ended Thursday's session in positive territory, though off intra-day highs. It was earnings galore in Germany, too. First out of the starting blocks was Bayer (BAY) (+1.16%) with estimates-topping first quarter results. Quarterly sales came in at €8.3 billion, up 23% year-over-year, and net profit at €2.8 billion. The pharma and chemicals giant confirmed its positive outlook for the year as a whole.

BASF (BF) (-1.93%) posted first quarter pre-exceptionals operating profit 13.5% higher year-over-year at €2.12 billion on quarterly sales at €14.6 billion. It reiterated that it sees a significant rise in 2007 sales and profit. Altana's (AAA) (+0.92%) first quarter core profit rose 23% to a better-than-expected €62 million.

According to prelims, Commerzbank (+1.94%) made a first quarter operating profit of at least €880 million and net earnings of about €590 million. Siemens (SI) (+1.32%) is setting higher profitability targets for most of its units to reach by 2010. This came a day after CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said he will resign before the end of the summer.

Wider market-listed Praktiker (+5.17%) posted better-than-expected first quarter sales of €877.5 million. Hugo Boss's (-2.63%) quarterly sales of €500 million were merely in line with expectations. IDS Scheer's (+3.38%) first quarter net profit rose 7% to €5.9 million. Krones' (+4.57%) first quarter pretax profit rose 18.4% to €36.1 million. Morphosys (+1.44%) tabled a first quarter operating profit of €1.3 million, down from €4.7 million last time.

Elsewhere: The S&P/MIB index (+0.2%) ended almost 100 points higher - breadth was 22-18 negative. Banking stocks were the day's key gainers, with Unicredito (+1.82%) accumulating over 120 points from the main benchmark index, thanks to the speculative appeal of a merger with France's SocGen. Insurer Generali (-0.06%) announced it is entering into a joint venture with Czech insurer Ceska Pojistovna.

The Nordic equity markets closed firmly higher; Helsinki was boosted by dual-listed Stora Enso (+4.20%) and Stockholm by ABB (ABB)(+4.64%).

Claudia Perotti, Lydia Carroll, Sara Oscarsson, Isabell Witt, Michael Sanderson, Gaurav Panchal, Julien Manrique, John West, Ben Marino, Emma Stevenson, Pawan Girglani.

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